Zero tolerance for oil spills necessary

It is regrettable that yet another oil spill has occurred ("Third oil spill on S'pore roads since Friday"; Wednesday).

The impact of these three spills was alarming, as they resulted in road closures for many hours, traffic hold-ups and consequent inconvenience to motorists and other road users, as well as loss of productive man-hours.

It was reported that there were 1,625 oil spills on our roads last year.

Oil spills have serious economic, environmental and social consequences for society.

Being a form of pollution, they are particularly detrimental to the environment, destroying eco-systems, especially animals and plants, which are impacted not only directly from the oil but also from the clean-up process.

Additionally, oil spills present an immediate fire hazard and can contaminate drinking water supplies. Their economic impact on tourism is also significant.

The urgent need is for the National Environment Agency, the Land Transport Authority and other authorities to coordinate and formulate a comprehensive national energy policy so that ruinous oil spills can be prevented or at least minimised.

While oil spill prevention can be a challenge, the clean-up, road repaving and recovery operations from such spills are also difficult, so it is imperative that the agencies concerned assess the potential for spills and have oil-spill prevention kits readily and swiftly available in sufficient quantities to handle such scenarios.

In addition, to minimise such incidents, the agencies should consider contingency measures that will either prevent oil spills from happening or at least provide some degree of damage control.

Drivers of tankers carrying oil should be made to comply with stringent procedures to prevent such accidents from occurring.

Large oil spills are not uncommon in other countries, despite substantial national and international policy improvements on preventing them.

But Singapore has no choice but to adopt a strict zero-tolerance approach to this problem and demonstrate to the world that concerted action and sustainable policies can prevent oil spills.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'Zero tolerance for oil spills necessary'. Print Edition | Subscribe